The Medal of Freedom

July 6, 2022

The Presidential
Medal of Freedom

The president will bestow the nation's highest civilian honor today at the
White House.
The backstory on this honor and the little known story of the first recipient in American history – a trailblazing woman who earned the trust of presidents.

History of The Medal

  • Created by Pres. Truman on July 6th, 1945 and referred to as the “Medal of Freedom.”
  • Why: To honor Americans who had “performed a meritorious act or service” during the Second World War. It could be awarded by the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, or Secretary of the Navy.
  • 1963: Pres. Kennedy re-established the award as the “Presidential Medal of Freedom,” making it an award bestowed by the president, and expanded its criteria to service outside of WWII.

The First Recipient

  • Name: Anna Rosenberg
  • Background: Originally born in Hungary in 1902. She moved to the Bronx in 1912.
  • Career highlights: She was the regional manager & director of the Social Security Board and later a regional director of the War Manpower Commission. She was the first woman to hold many of her jobs.
  • She was appointed as a special envoy to Europe for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman; one of her tasks was to help reintegrate soldiers into civilian life after service.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.”

The White House announcing the 17 newest recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Some of Pres. Biden’s Medal of Freedom recipients today include Simone Biles, Denzel Washington, Steve Jobs, and John McCain.

The president can award the Medal of Freedom to an unlimited number of people (and it can be awarded posthumously). Recipients typically reflect a president’s ideals and politics.

The most awards have been given by Pres. Johnson (57 awards), Pres. Reagan (86 awards) and Pres. Obama (115 awards).

In very rare instances a special version of the award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, is presented.” Pres. Obama surprised then-VP Joe Biden with this honor before leaving office in 2017.

President Biden Announces Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom | The White House

Anna M. Rosenberg and Women in Defense after World War II

by Jenna Lee,